The Sesame Street/USO Experience Heads to the Lone Star State

Five year old Seth Fasnacht (C) and other children gather near the stage at the end of the show to touch Elmo and the other characters. Fasnacht's father is a chaplain at the NAS. (Mark Matson for USO)

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families continues its Stateside tour…deep in the heart of Texas!  Military kids and their families enjoyed another fun-filled show, jam-packed with music, songs, and life lessons along the way.  We’re bringing you the latest pictures, from Corpus Christi, and encourage you to visit our Flickr set for more group shots from many of the Stateside tour stops.

The Washington Times recently reported on the tour, and the impact is has on military families: “The message has been helpful; [my kids] came up talking about their feelings,” said Luelisse Torres-Rodriguez, a mother of two whose husband is a major in the Army, often deployed for one to six months at a time. Her family went to the 25-minute show twice at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., which “made [the children's] day,” she said.  “And it let me become a kid, too.”

Click here to see the full schedule for 2010 and check below to see if we’ll be in a town near you in July!

Fort Bliss – Texas – July 10 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.; July 11 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Cannon AFB – New Mexico – July 14 – 3:00 p.m.; July 15 – 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Fort Hood – Texas – July 17 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.; July 18 – 1:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Tinker AFB – Oklahoma – July 21 – 2:30 p.m.; July 22 – 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
McConnell AFB – Kansas – July 24 – 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Fort Riley – Kansas – July 28 – 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; July 29 – 10:00 a.m.and 6:00 p.m.
Peterson AFB – Colorado – July 31 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

A young fan reaches for a "high five" from Cookie Monster at the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families on July 3, 2010 at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. (Mark Matson for USO)

Two year old Mario Matinez reaches out with his toy. He and his brother Victor and mother Marlene attended the show. His father Victor Matinez is serving in Afghanistan. (Mark Matson for USO)

It's fun for the whole family as (L-R) Tiara Mitchell (5), Macayla Elmore (3) and Aniya Elmore (6), play with their Sesame Street toys while waiting for the show to begin. (Mark Matson for USO)

Six year old Hailey Brown waves a big "hello" to Zoe - as always, wearing her beloved tutu - during the performance. (Mark Matson for USO)

Seven year old Lupita Vargas ties a USO bandana around her head as she gets ready for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families was presented July 2, 2010 at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. (Mark Matson for USO)

Bush Library Celebrates the USO!

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is in College Station, TX.

George Bush, 41st president of the United States, and Mrs. Barbara Bush will host an event celebrating the USO and its role in lifting the spirits of America’s men and women in uniform and their families. Event panelists will include Gary Sinise, a film and TV star; Mayra Veronica, singer and model; Major General Jeffery W. Hammond, U.S. Army, chief of staff of U.S. Forces Command; and Sloan Gibson, the 22nd president and CEO of United Service Organizations (USO).

The doors will open at 3:00 p.m. A limited number of free tickets are available in the Bryan-College Station community at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Texas A&M University’s MSC Box Office, B-CS Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Eagle, KBTX, and WTAW. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good - watch the trailer of this moving documentary at http://www.ltdanbandmovie.com/

The event will include remarks from the panelists about the ongoing mission of the USO and an audience question-and-answer session. The forum will be followed by a reception and screening of the award-winning film The Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good, which will be hosted by Jonathan Flora, the film’s director.  The USO event will also have a Mobile Canteen on hand.  Attendees will be able to contribute to the USO’s efforts by donating supplies including toiletries and items to benefit deployed troops.  The items can be dropped off beginning at 12:00 pm at the Mobile USO at the George Bush Presidential Library Center. For a list of suggested items, click here.

Even if you can’t make it to College Station, though, you should be able to watch some of the event live on C-SPAN and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum website.  We’ll give you more details as they become available.

We Celebrate the Grand Opening of USO El Paso, Alongside FirstLight Federal Credit Union

Soldiers help Karl Murphy, FirstLight Federal Credit Union president, cut the ribbon during the grand opening ceremony on April 15, 2010. (USO Photo by El Paso Portraits)

The USO and FirstLight Federal Credit Union opened conjoined, brand new centers, continuing their commitment to service members stationed on Fort Bliss.   These new facilities will serve more than 37,000 troops and 53,000 military family members expected on Fort Bliss by 2012.   USO El Paso also supports troops stationed in New Mexico and on White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.

Yolanda Castillo is the Director of USO El Paso and has this to say about the new center: “On-going community support of our new USO facility at East Fort Bliss has enabled the thousands of troops at Fort Bliss to find a true ‘home away from home’.  Our new center is bright and welcoming, and will offer troops a pleasant respite from their daily military duties. We are very grateful for the generous support from FirstLight Federal Credit Union and the El Paso community!”

Located at the northeast corner of Constitution and Sgt. Major Blvd, the new building is situated in the heart of Fort Bliss.  This is USO El Paso’s second location on Fort Bliss, creating one of the largest combined footprints on any military installation.  The new 6,400 square foot USO center boasts more than 30 Internet enabled computer stations, three flat screen televisions, Blu-ray players, six Xbox® 360 consoles, pool tables, a kitchen area, lounge, lending library, snack bar and large outdoor patio.

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman said, “The new center on Fort Bliss will help meet the quickly escalating demand from the many soldiers and their families new to the base and the remaining thousands arriving in the next few years. The FirstLight-USO partnership is one that is above and beyond the usual, and one that will improve the lives of many in a meaningful way.”

Check out more photos below!

The new 6,400 square foot USO center has 40 Internet enabled computer stations, 3 flat screen televisions, Blu-ray players, 6 Xbox® 360 consoles, pool tables, a kitchen area, lounge, lending library and outdoor patio. (USO Photo by El Paso Portraits)

USO president, Sloan Gibson, acknowledges media during the USO El Paso and FirstLight Federal Credit Union grand opening celebration on April 15, 2010. (USO Photo by El Paso Portraits)

USO El Paso Programs Manager, Robert Medrano (R), chats with a center volunteer during the USO El Paso and FirstLight Federal Credit Union grand opening celebration on April 15, 2010. (USO Photo by El Paso Portraits)

The USO's Mobile Canteen traveled to Fort Bliss to greet and serve troops and their families during the USO El Paso and FirstLight Federal Credit Union's grand opening celebration on April 15, 2010. (USO Photo by El Paso Portraits)

Yolanda Castillo, director of USO El Paso, greets guests during the grand opening of USO El Paso and FirdtLight Federal Credit Union's first conjoined center on Fort Bliss. (USO Photo by El Paso Portraits)

Ride 2 Recovery Wraps Up the Texas Challenge!

You’ve probably already read about the beginning and middle of Ride 2 Recovery’s “Don’t Mess with Texas” Challenge.  Now read the final chapter on this amazing experience!

The group headed from Fort Hood to Waco on day four.  The support was overwhelming, including a special visit from Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley, deputy commanding general for III Corps and Fort Hood.  “This is really a ride for inspiration for the rest of us,” Grimsley said.

One rider explained how the time together on the road was affecting the cyclists:  “The groups are really starting to solidify and the group camaraderie could not be higher. The wind really helped out. There are so many great stories to tell. One rider…is riding a hand cycle. He has never used a handcycle until this ride and so far has made every mile.

Riders were welcomed by Fort Hood's senior leadership and then cheered on by thousands of motivated troops, who lined the road for 4 1/2 miles on both sides of the road.

Day five the riders were starting to appreciate the finer points of pack riding, mastering skills that even accomplished riders have a hard time with.  Groups of recreational cyclists showed their support by joining the group along the way, the biggest being “Team Texas,” a group led by Tony and Big Ed. They have really helped out and organized he warriors into impressive formations. By riding in the group, the participants are able to stay together and better enjoy the countryside.  Support from the American Legion riders, and the Legion Auxiliary was tremendous.  The dinners were especially appreciated!

The biggest group of recreation cyclists to ride along since the beginning has been the "Team Texas" group led by Tony and Big Ed. They really helped out and organized he warriors into impressive formations. By riding in the group, the participants were able to stay together and better enjoy the countryside.

The final day found the riders on the road from Cleburne to Arlington.  Their final destination was Arlington Ranger’s Ballpark, where special guest Nolan Ryan was waiting to greet the group at the finish ceremony, along with Duane Wagner, a highly decorated Viet Nam Veteran, who would throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

Before arriving at the ballpark, though, it was time for one more special group of cyclists to join along: the Texas Rangers brought ‘em home in another R2R first, as the group rode together for the last 20 miles instead of the usual five. Lots of laughter and nostalgia filled the air.

Welcome to Arlington.

As the riders left the town of Cleburne on their way to Arlington, the town in between - Keene - had a special welcome for the riders. They had lined the street with American flags and the Mayor and other civic leaders had a ceremony to welcome the participants.

Renovation and Expansion for USO San Antonio

The USO Center at the San Antonio International Airport has recently completely a renovation and expansion process!  At 5,100 square feet, the center certainly lives up to the motto that “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.”  With room for a computer center, a theater, snack bar, television, pool tables, gaming rooms, and a space set aside just for kids, there’s something for everyone.

San Antonio, TX, is located at a nexus of Troop activity, with Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Brooks City-Base, and Brooke Army Medical Center.  Because of their proximity to BAMC, the center will also feature activities and entertainment designed specifically for wounded Troops.

We’re thrilled to expand the services and space available at USO San Antonio and invite Troops and their families to stop by and see is on their way through the airport! Check out some pics from yesterday’s Grand Reopening festivities…

USO San Antonio Center Director, Shari Jenson (center), joins to Brig. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, Commander, 502nd Air Base Wing, Fort Sam Houston, Texas (far L); Sloan Gibson, USO president; Edward Reilly, USO Board of Governors Chair at the USO San Antonio Grand Re-Opening celebration on April 7, 2010. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)

Local service members join Shari Jenson, USO San Antonio Center Director (center); William Moll, former Chair of the USO Board of Governors (far L); and Sloan Gibson, USO president (far R) as they hold up Nintendo® Wii™ and Xbox® 360 games donated by Activision. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)

Brig. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, Commander, 502nd Air Base Wing, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, greets the crowd outside of the USO San Antonio building in downtown San Antonio during the center's re-opening celebration on April 7, 2010. (USO Photo by Photo Fino)

USO San Antonio Center Director Shari Jenson does an interview for a local news station at the center's re-opening celebration on April 7, 2010. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)

USO San Antonio's new center is a 5,100 square foot facility that features a computer area with free Internet access; theater room; lounge area with televisions, recliners, Xbox® 360 stations, and two pool tables; a children’s room; United Through Reading® Military Program recording area; and a fully stocked snack bar with ice cream stations. Center visitors also have access to four gaming rooms with multiple Nintendo® Wii™ and more Xbox® 360 gaming consoles. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)